A North Carolina Slasher from the Eighties

The heyday of low-budget slashers, a cornerstone of the American horror market, likely occurred sometime in the early Eighties. Cast unknown actors, slather them in blood and gore as they die horrific deaths, rinse and repeat. Dialogue and story were usually secondary considerations in these movies. It was an easy and cheap formula to follow for indie horror filmmakers at the time.

Director Buddy Cooper’s The Mutilator (also known as Fall Break) is one such film, a disposable movie made for the VHS shelves. Old-school slasher fans will love its surprisingly violent deaths and cheesy acting. Those less inclined toward derivative slasher action will probably end up being bored until its more thrilling final act.

Set and filmed in North Carolina, The Mutilator doesn’t aspire to be anything but a pure slasher film. Its story is quite simple, revolving around a college student and his friends going away one weekend to his father’s beach house. Ed (Matt Mitler) and his friends are looking to party with their girlfriends for the weekend. What the couples don’t know is that a psychotic madman is hiding out on the property with various sharp weapons, including a battle axe and fisherman’s hook. No one is safe as the couples slowly get killed off.

A couple of the kills are shockingly graphic even by the standards of slashers.

To its credit, the script attempts to provide some psychological texture and shading to the main protagonist, Ed. The movie literally opens with a bang. Ed accidentally killed his mother as a boy, causing untold grief to Ed’s father. Now that Ed has grown up, they don’t have much of a relationship. He’s surprised when his father asks him to close up the beach condo for the winter.

Ed and his group of friends form three couples. There is Ed and Pam (Ruth Martinez), along with their annoying friend Ralph. Ralph is a jokester, playing pranks whenever he can with the others. There isn’t a great deal of depth to these secondary characters but they serve their purpose as potential victims for the maniac.

Slasher fans will enjoy the old-school blood effects and visceral deaths. A couple of the kills are shockingly graphic even by the standards of slashers. What hurts The Mutilator is its slow, awkward opening act that plays as a bad teen comedy. This is a low-key b-movie in that most of the murders take place in its final act and the characters aren’t particularly memorable, even the killer. Buddy Cooper’s film is entertaining enough for fans with a deep rooting interest in slashers, but likely a curious relic from the Eighties for others.

Movie ★★★☆☆

The Mutilator Blu-ray screen shot 15

Leave it to Arrow Video to restore a film like The Mutilator to its uncut status and then give it a completely new 2K restoration. Sadly, the negative is lost to history. Aided by the director and others, The Mutilator’s uncut version has been pieced back together from vault materials. That mostly includes using various film prints and secondary film sources of varying quality. What we get is a fine, serviceable presentation on Blu-ray that turns out sharper than expected. The Mutilator looks good for a low-budget, VHS-era slasher with better than expected clarity.

The 86-minute main feature receives a flawless AVC video encode, averaging 35 Mbps. This is a perfectly transparent rendering of the film’s native grain structure, while retaining its pure and unfiltered detail. Presented in its expected 1.85:1 aspect ratio at 1080P resolution, the movie is included on a BD-50. It is a technically sound presentation done with best practices.

The film elements show little overt damage or debris, some work has been done to ensure a seamless film experience. They are completely clean and mostly stable in contrast, showing minor inconsistencies when secondary sources are used for the uncut footage. Arrow has done a marvelous job with the color grading, ensuring a consistent tone with decent black levels and contrast. Color saturation won’t wow anyone, but certainly exceeds expectations.

No label handles obscure and forgotten genre films on home video better than Arrow Video these days. While the film will never be demo material, this is a reference transfer of rough surviving elements.

Video ★★★★☆

The original monaural soundtrack for the slasher  comes in a flat 1.0 PCM flavor. This is a typical-sounding mono mix of its day, featuring adequate fidelity for the recorded music like the theme song, Fall Break. The dialogue is laid out in a thinner, smaller acoustic space. It is a clean but underwhelming soundtrack. Most will characterize this audio as serviceable with no serious, objectionable problems.

Optional English SDH subtitles display in a white font.

Audio ★★★☆☆

Arrow Video continues to deliver the best special features being released on Blu-ray today. This DVD and Blu-ray combo set is packed with extras, from two commentaries to a feature-length documentary detailing extensive production information from key cast and crew. They leave no stone unturned, answering just about every question you could have about making this slasher. A nearly 30-page booklet includes a piece by Ewan Cant and an archival article by Tim Ferrante.

Even if the movie itself is derivative and mildly forgettable, these special features alone are enough to recommend a purchase. There are even two bonus easter eggs. Highlight Music in the Special Features menu, then press the right arrow of your remote for the first easter egg. Highlight Gallery, then press the right arrow of your remote for a second easter egg.

  • Introduction to the film with writer-director Buddy Cooper and assistant special make-up effects artist/assistant editor Edmund Ferrell (01:08 in HD)
  • Audio Commentary with Buddy Cooper, Ferrell, co-director John Douglass and star Matt Mitler – A lively commentary filled with odd anecdotes and useful production tidbits.
  • Audio Commentary with Buddy Cooper and actress Ruth Martinez Tutterow – Now a teacher, Ruth has fond memories of being Pam in this movie.
  • Fall Breakers: The Story of The Mutilator (75:01 in HD) – A brand new feature-length documentary on the making of the splatter classic featuring interviews with Cooper, Douglass, Ferrell, Mitler, actors Bill Hitchcock, Jack Chatham and more.
  • Mutilator Memories (15:57 in HD) – Special make-up effects artist Mark Shostrom looks back at one of his earliest projects.
  • Tunes for the Dunes (08:13 in HD) – Composer Michael Minard reveals how The Mutilator’s unique score was created.
  • Behind-the-Scenes Reel (16:31 in upscaled HD)
  • Screen Tests (13:03 in upscaled HD)
  • Alternate Opening Titles (04:32 in HD)
  • Trailers and TV Spots
  • Fall Break Theme Song (Original and Instrumental Versions) (03:30 in HD)
  • Opening Sequence Storyboards (04:27 in HD)
  • Motion Stills Gallery
  • Original Fall Break Screenplay (BD/DVD-ROM content)
  • Reversible sleeve featuring two original artworks


Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.


Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.

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